Roughly two years after the Muma Basketball Center's grand opening, the Bulls' practice gyms and plush meeting rooms still elicit that new-car smell. But the new-car horsepower is another matter.
On Monday, Stan Heath popped the proverbial hood and began the restoration process. As scoring goes, a fan base wonders if these Bulls — unlike last season's model — have the capability of going from zero to 70 on a given night.
Chat with their coach for a spell, and any skepticism might dissipate. USF's lack of depth on the perimeter and lack of girth down low were addressed on signing day and in the summer. Which is to say, Heath has souped up the motor.
But perhaps more important, he has beefed up the frame. Check out the dimensions of some bodies running the floor at Monday's first team practice: 6 feet 8, 266 pounds (freshman Chris Perry); 6-7, 245 (sophomore Zach LeDay); 6-10, 250 (freshman John Egbunu).
To name a few.
"We really got manhandled inside last year, both in rebounding and interior play, defensively and offensively," Heath said. "Their size alone and their athleticism is double where we were last year. So we're already better there."
The best signing class of Heath's seven seasons also is his biggest, a super-sized complement to forward and top returning scorer Victor Rudd. As it evolves, Heath hopes it can ease pressure in a backcourt forced into way too many tough shots in 2012-13.
"I think the thing that can alleviate that is our big guys progressing and giving us more of an inside presence and getting the defense to collapse a little bit more," said Heath, whose 2012-13 club (12-19) was last in the Big East in scoring (58.8 ppg) and field-goal percentage (38.9). "(The big men) are all different in some ways, but they all play hard and they all bring something different to the table that we didn't have last year."
Ideally for Heath, the development of his frontcourt not only will allow the Bulls guards more open looks, but more open running lanes. With an interior presence, USF can play from the inside out and kick-start a transition game through consistent rebounding.
And when this make and model shifts into high gear, it should handle much better. Heath also added depth at guard (i.e. junior college transfer Corey Allen Jr., 2012 Class 3A state tourney MVP Josh Heath).
"I think our style is going to improve our percentages," said Heath, noting his players took 500-700 additional shots a week in the offseason. "I don't think (shooting) is the strength of our team, but I do think we're a better shooting team than we were last year."
TRIBUTES ON DISPLAY: In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the football team will wear pink socks, wrist bands and gloves at Saturday night's home game against Cincinnati.
Less conspicuous will be the circular helmet decal — the word "Flick" above the No. 77 — worn by the Bearcats. Cincinnati OL Ben Flick was one of two people killed in a single-car accident on Sept. 21. Bearcats WR Mark Barr remains in serious condition.
BULL BITS: Heath said PG Anthony Collins, who recently had a minor procedure to alleviate some knee swelling, should be ready to practice within two weeks.… The volleyball team (6-9, 0-1 American Athletic Conference), hosts Rutgers on Friday and UConn on Sunday. … Junior Kennedy Selorm Adablah, who scored the equalizer in the men's soccer team's 1-all tie Friday against No. 12 UConn, made the American's weekly honor roll a second consecutive week.